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Cowboys almost certain to self-destruct

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Thayer Evans

Senior College Football writer Thayer Evans previously wrote for The New York Times and Houston Chronicle, as well as contributed to The Economist, USA Today, The Washington Post and more. Follow him on Twitter.

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AUSTIN, Texas

It should be a one-game season for Oklahoma State.

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With a favorable schedule leading up to its regular-season finale at home against No. 3 Oklahoma, the Cowboys should enter that game with an undefeated record and a shot to play in the national championship game. But the reality is they won’t have either by the time of that Dec. 3 contest.

Because a meltdown by seventh-year Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is coming just like usual, as evidenced by his sixth-ranked team’s sloppy 38-26 victory Saturday against incompetent No. 22 Texas.

Even the rest of the college football world knows Gundy is bound for a debacle. It’s the unspoken reason no one is worried about the Cowboys winning the Big 12 championship, let alone the national title, this season.

Everyone is just waiting for Chokie State to once again live up to its nickname under Gundy.

When Gundy's Cowboys were ranked No. 5 in 2009 and considered a national championship contender, they lost their second game of the season to unranked Houston. Later that season, the Cowboys needed just to win at Oklahoma to make a BCS bowl game, but lost.

Last season, Oklahoma State was in the same situation entering its game against Oklahoma, but again choked.

Of course, Gundy’s biggest meltdown wasn’t even on a football field. It was four years ago, when he infamously yelled, “I’m a man! I’m 40!” while berating a female newspaper columnist for what she had written.

Yet despite his knack for meltdowns, a solemn Gundy managed to avoid one Saturday when asked whether he was haunted by his past failures.

“No,” Gundy said. “It’s a new season.”

But it’s still the same Gundy, always on the verge of a disaster. After his team opened the second half with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to take a 28-10 lead, it looked poised to blow out Texas like Oklahoma did last week.

Instead, the Cowboys let the inept Longhorns right back in the game by giving up 14 straight points — which included a 100-yard return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff — before rallying to snuff out the comeback.

Oklahoma State also had other glaring concerns, such as the inability to convert on third down, especially in short-yard situations. The team also had mental errors, which included at least five dropped passes and quarterback Brandon Weeden stepping out of the end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter.

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“We had some issues,” Gundy said. “We have to get better.”

The biggest of those issues for Gundy is his porous defense. The only way his team has been able to stop opponents has been by forcing turnovers.

That’s a recipe for a shootout that even Oklahoma State’s explosive offense can’t win. And when that happens, it’ll be vintage Gundy, who for years has been undermined by his leaky defenses.

Gundy’s players insist he is more relaxed this season than ever, but are well aware of his past meltdowns. They are used to being asked, “Are you guys actually going to win it this year?”

“I feel the pressure,” Oklahoma State defensive tackle Nigel Nicholas said.

And if this season is going to be any different for Gundy, even one of his best players can’t tell you why. When asked why people should believe that Oklahoma State won’t disappoint, Weeden was at a loss for words.

“I don’t know,” Weeden said. “We’re not worried about it.”

Weeden actually makes a good point. You can’t worry about what’s inevitable.

Tagged: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Brandon Weeden

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